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Ideal Emerging Leader candidates are highly accomplished in their careers and expected to rise to the top of their fields in the next five to ten years. The Council intentionally seeks exceptional leaders who reflect the rich diversity of Chicago.

Apply Now to Become an Emerging Leader

The application process is open November 2, 2020 to March 8, 2021.

Selection Process

Ideal Candidates Are: 

  • Diverse experiences and perspectives: The selected cohort is diverse not only in personal and professional backgrounds but also in ideological and intellectual perspectives.  
  • Interest in global affairs: Candidates demonstrate a strong professional or personal interest in global issues, trends, and events. 
  • Passion and Drive: Candidates are highly accomplished in their careers and expected to rise to the top of their fields in the next 10 years. 
  • Community Engagement: Candidates are active in their communities and committed to working on solutions that will have a positive impact on Chicago’s role as a global city.  
  • Active Participant: Each month, participants meet on the first Friday (2 to 5 p.m.) and third Wednesday (5 to 8 p.m.) and participate in a Council program of their choice, in addition to other mandatory meetings. Employers must be supportive of the time commitment. 
  • Committed: Participants are required to devote additional time to completing an end-of-year project that includes a short policy memo and a persuasive flash talk on a key issue within the Emerging Leaders curriculum. Design and execution support will be provided. 
  • Invested in the program: Candidates and their organizations share the costs of participating in the program with the Council. A reduced participation fee is available for qualified candidates. See FAQs below.  
  • Invested in the Council: Emerging Leaders continue their engagement with the Council and maintain active participation at the President’s Club level after they complete the program.  
  • Between 30-42 Years Old : Candidates must be 42 or under as of June 30, 2021. 
  • All candidates must complete and submit the candidate information form, three essays, and two letters of reference to be considered. All materials must be submitted by the deadline.

  • Reference letters are open and should be completed by those who can speak to the candidate’s qualifications for the program.

  • Applications will be scored by the Emerging Leaders selection committee composed of Council leadership members, Emerging Leader alumni, and Emerging Leaders Program staff.

  • Candidates are notified on their application status the week of April 13.

  • Candidates selected from the initial round of applications receive invitations to interview with the selection committee.

  • Each candidate will be interviewed for 20 to 30 minutes at the Council on Global Affairs by a sub-group of the Emerging Leaders selection committee.

  • Additional information about participation fees and sponsorship will be available to candidates at this time and each interviewee will be asked to submit information on their financial and time commitments.

  • Candidates are notified on the status of their application the week of June 1. 
  • If selected, each participant is required to submit a statement agreeing to meet the expectations of the Emerging Leaders Program, including: full participation at meetings, programs and events; outreach to their network on behalf of the Council; and ongoing engagement and Council membership after the program year. 
  • Candidates and their organizations will work with the Council to determine how the participation fee will be covered. See frequently asked questions below about the financial commitment. 

Financial Commitment FAQ

The Council is committed to investing in globally minded leaders in the Chicagoland area, as demonstrated by its investment in the program since 2008 and its financial support of all program participants to varying degrees.

For the Class of 2022, the participation fee is $15,000 for corporate/private sector participants and $5,000 for non-profit/public sector participants. These fees are part of the cost sharing between individual Emerging Leaders, their supporting organizations, and the Council. 

Emerging Leaders are expected to cover their travel costs for two days of meetings in Washington, DC in October. Additionally, Emerging Leaders individually continue their engagement with the Council and maintain active membership at the President's Club level after the completion of their program year. 

Yes. Once you have been selected to the program you can work with the Emerging Leaders Program staff to arrange for the payment of your participation fee. Please note that places in the Emerging Leaders class are non-transferable. 

Do you want to articulate the benefits of the EL program to your organization's decisionmakers? Download a sample letter to request their support.

Participation fees are determined by the sector that you primarily work in. 

Payment of participation fee is due before September 3, 2021 and is non-refundable and non-transferable. Installment payments may be available, with full payment of participation fees due by December 15, 2021. 

A reduced participation fee is available to high potential candidates or candidates from organizations that demonstrate financial need for limited scholarship support and supplemental Council investment. Please direct any inquiries to Jennifer Petersen at

No. All Emerging Leaders candidates are chosen based on the candidate criteria. Candidates who can not pay the full participation fee can request scholarship support. Limited scholarship support is available to a small number of candidates.

Program Experience

Learn more about what an Emerging Leader experiences during the year-long program. 

  • ELs meet twice a month October through June. These sessions consist of presentations by subject matter experts, skill building workshops, and participatory learning activities.
  • ELs meet with key figures in Washington, DC to gain a behind-the-scenes look at the policy formulation process in our nation's capital.
  • ELs attend small gatherings hosted by a Council Board member and a dinner with a Council speaker, among other exclusive invitations.
  • ELs gain experience in policy analysis, developing a persuasive policy argument, and bolstering their public speaking and writing skills in the development of their project.
  • Orientation: Evening of July 21, 2021 
  • Retreat: September 10-11, 2021 
  • Washington, DC Meetings Briefing: TBC. Will confirm by May 2021.  
  • Washington, DC Meetings: TBC. Will confirm by May 2021.  
  • Holiday Social: December 3, 2021 
  • Every third Wednesday of each month, 5-8 p.m., beginning October 20 (2021 dates: 10/20 and 11/17; 2022 dates: 1/19, 2/16, 3/16, 4/20, 5/8, and 6/15)
  • Every first Friday of each month, 2-5 p.m., beginning November 5 (2021 dates: 11/5 and 12/3; 2022 dates: 1/7, 2/4, 3/4, 4/1, 5/6, and 6/3) 

Emerging Leaders Program Contact

Jennifer Petersen

Assistant Director, Next Generation